Spanning an impressive thirteen acres just off Great South Road, Papakura, lies one of Franklin’s most naturally beautiful scenic reserves, Kirks Bush.
Originally called Chisholm’s Bush, the land on which it lies was purchased by the Kirk Brothers, James and John in 1894 until John Kirks death in 1902, and James’s death in 1918, respectively.
The land then changed hands to Dr A.W.P Brookfield who offered to sell the bush portion of the property to the Town Board for residential purposes, but the offer was declined due to lack of funds. In 1921 and 1922 locals then intervened and with help, asked the Government in Wellington to purchase. Eventually, seven acres of bush was bought and set aside as a Crown Reserve from local funding and a Government grant.
In 1926 the Kirks Bush Scenic Board was set up to control the reserve with members of the board, Alfred and Robert Willis donating an extra two and a half acres in 1929, with an additional one acre purchased along one of the entrances on Beach Road, while another board member, A M Butterworth donated a three quarter acre section opposite the reserve and bequeathed an additional stand of bush on the other side of the Great South Road for a custodian’s house to be built, known as the ‘Caretaker’s House’
Successive Councils added more area to the fringes of the main bush and purchased the playing field known as Southern Park, extending the reserve to its present five hectares.
Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, service clubs upgraded the Main and Beach Road track by pegging Ponga logs to form the track sides and infilled with bark. This gave tree roots some form of protection from pedestrian traffic, but eventually disintegrated over time. In 1989, Kirks Bush Scenic Reserve Board was officially abolished, and its duties taken over by the Papakura District Council and in 1994 the council undertook preparation for a management plan for the reserve, involving public consultation with considerable interest from locals throughout the district.
A meeting was organised by former Papakura District Councillor, David Wright to discuss financial undertakings of the reserve. It was decided to hold fortnightly weeding working bees to remove rubbish, tradescantia (a type of wildflower) and non-native tree seedlings, as well as prioritizing other issues that were identified- root protection from pedestrians and more permanent pathways.
From this meeting, the group, ‘Friends of Kirks Bush’ was formed, with founding member, Muriel Nacey, the group’s long-standing member of twenty-five years.
A self -confessed ‘country kid’ Muriel always had a fondness for Kirks Bush and alongside other Friends of Kirks Bush members, including Margaret Gane, who has been involved with Friends of Kirks Bush for the last seventeen years. They have worked hard over the years to help make the reserve a pleasant place to walk through and enjoy.
One of their first tasks was to address the creeping weed that had started to strangle and stop the regeneration of other plants.
“Weed so thick we could roll it up into a swiss roll.” says Muriel
Today, the weeds are reduced to patches and new pathways and lobbying for boardwalks for easier access were formed with tracks completed along the Main and Beach road entrances by the Drury Rotary Club, while other pathways and paving were completed by the Papakura Lions Club and private contractors, with funding from BNZ (Bank of New Zealand)
Muriel and Margaret say although you won’t Kiwi Birds roaming the bush, the area has experienced a big change throughout the years in that more people and now using it.
The reserve is not only appreciated and admired by the public, tourists, and nature lovers, but also serves as an educational hot spot for schools who come to take advantage of living bush as part of their learning where they can connect with the world around them through sight, touch and hearing and to learn about plant life and learn the names of the native trees and birds that inhabit the reserve that include Puriri, Tawa, Totara, Rimu, Karaka and Ponga with many sightings of birds like Tui, Kaka, Fantails and Kereru.
Margaret says Friends of Kirks Bush has been helping to keep the reserve beautiful since 1994 and hopes that people will continue to appreciate and enjoy the bush, especially for future generations.
“We don’t want to let this die.” says Margaret.
November will mark the groups 25th anniversary of existence and will be a celebration for its members by invitation only.